Founder: Jane Fordham Consulting
Alumna Jane Fordham graduated in 1998 with a BA in European Business. Here she discusses her time at Loughborough, her career and setting up her own consultancy.
I was very set on a business degree as a solid and broad foundation for a, yet to be defined, ‘commercial’ career. I loved language, travel and the breadth of thinking and cultures afforded by exposure to other countries so pairing the business with French was a no-brainer.
I did quite a large number of university visits and I liked the atmosphere and credentials of Loughborough and, that it wasn’t London. As someone who grew up close to London, expecting to work a large portion of my career there, I was keen to be somewhere else to study.
It was just the impact it had on my university experience but it generally taught me significant life lessons that I still draw on today. I loved it but it was really challenging in the early months, it taught me great resilience and tenacity, had me grow up even faster than arriving in halls at Loughborough, a meaningful introduction into a commercial environment and yes, had a transformational effect on my language skills.
I had a really positive time at Loughborough, the course content and quality was what I wanted and expected, the culture and set-up of the campus and the location meant I enjoyed life and made life-long friends and connections.
One thing that I could not have appreciated at the time was the calibre of my peers and the stellar teaching - as a cohort we have all been incredibly driven and successful. I am in touch with a large number of alumni (I met my husband there so we have double the network as it were) and their rich and varied career trajectories are impressive. Too much so to be a coincidence!
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
The pace of societal change is exhilarating and scary in equal measure. It’s not going to slow up anytime soon. Be as open-minded as possible re exposure to a breadth of disciplines and sectors, hone a curiosity for life-long learning and expect to have a career path with multiple changes of direction and much re-training. Do not try and preordain your entire career as you graduate. Take from your time at Loughborough a hunger to seek alternative ways to tackle problems and opportunities, do not approach life having ‘learnt’ the answers parrot fashion.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?
So I was one of those rare Loughborough students that was devoid of sporting prowess. I did get involved in the Debating Society and threw myself into Bill Mo activities including editing the hall magazine. The Debating Society took up little time and introduced me to a different group of people. The hall magazine, which did take up more time admittedly, was for a limited time and helped develop skills I’d draw on in my career (team leadership and copywriting).
I was highly motivated by the work that I had done at my previous employer (communications & digital agency, Golin) around equality, diversity & inclusion. It was a desire to focus exclusively on this space, coupled with an awareness that the current societal shift towards gender equality and activism meant that the timing was ideal, that led me to take the plunge and do something new.
Despite a stimulating summer internship at PR agency Hill & Knowlton, I thought I wanted to be a management consultant post-graduation. My first role was in a small business-to-business research consultancy which conducted international research studies for brands like HP. An unexpected family bereavement motivated me to reappraise my career path and consequently I took my first job in PR at Firefly Communications, seeking out something I had greatly enjoyed and felt I could excel at.
From there I went to Golin in 2003 and worked my way up running clients and teams on brands like EE, Tetra Pak and Oracle. In more recent years at Golin I moved into an unusual but rewarding role leading ‘talent’ (looking after the agency’s key resource, its people) and the brand’s own marketing. I was incredibly proud of our trailblazing programmes which led the communications industry in terms of gender and social equality, earning us opportunities to share best practice and shape policy in the Government’s Equality Office.
I felt it was time for a change after 15 years in a wonderful place, and closer to 20 years in one industry. It also felt like a perfect storm in terms of a personal quest for greater purpose in my career and a societal shift towards greater equality. There was never going to be a better time to do this. Plus, I now get to work with many fascinating and motivated organisations and individuals across the creative industries sphere rather than one.
I get to combine something I feel incredibly passionate about with making a living. Having had wonderful opportunities over my career and having been inspired by some incredible colleagues, I now get to meet and help an even wider pool of people and organisations. My learning has accelerated and the degree of freedom I have to be master of my own destiny is very liberating.
I’m only in month three of my new venture so I am excited about the growth opportunities in the coming months and years and the impact I can have facilitating positive change. I am in a fortunate position to be able to be very open and fluid to follow a path of greatest opportunity and interest!
I can think of two standout periods or events. I was able to work with amazing colleagues to develop a much-admired brand at Golin. When I looked around the faces of the agency team (many of whom I’d personally hired) when we were awarded several ‘Agency of the Year’ titles, it was incredibly rewarding to feed off the pride of every individual in the team.
I have also had the privilege of working on a ‘returnship’ programme since 2015, helping to get Mums (and one Dad) back on the career ladder after an extended break raising a family or being a carer. I positively glow to see the impact this programme has on these individuals.
Find out more about Jane's consulting business online.